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Biking Boom Rides Into Supply Problem, But Peoria Co-op Shines

Flickr Creative Commons/Tripp

Bicycling can be listed as one of the beneficiaries of the pandemic.

“People have turned to biking again,” said Joe Russell, owner of Russell’s Cycling & Fitness in Washington.

“With other options shut down, it’s the perfect activity for the planet,” he said, referring to a period that began in the spring earlier when, with so many confined to home, biking became the ideal way to get out of the house safely while enjoying a little exercise.

“We saw tremendous interest in any kind of bike under $2,000,” said Russell.

Bicycle sales boomed early in the spring, said John Bousky, owner of Illinois Cycle, the Peoria outlet that bills itself as the oldest bike shop in the country.

“There was a big spike in sales early on. We saw an entire summer’s worth of sales in one month then factories in Asia shut down for two months,” he said. Around 99 percent of bicycles sold in the United States come from China and Taiwan, according to the research firm Statista.

“Soon all the bike shops got cleaned out of new bikes, then used bikes. Even old bikes people had sitting in the garage got sold,” said Bousky.

With the Asian supply chain broken, even bicycle parts have been hard to come by, he said.

The supply problem is likely to linger into next year, said Bousky. “Suppliers aren’t telling us much,” he said.

While bike shops here and across the country suffer from problems involving big demand and short supply, Peoria’s Bike Co-op is flourishing.

The co-op, a small shop located at 612 W. Main St., serves as a center for bicycle use, said Bike Peoria president Brent Baker.

Volunteers fix bikes—as well as teaching folks how to do repairs--while selling bicycles for the public, he said. “I look at it as a never-ending garage sale. We get some pretty decent bikes in there,” said Baker.

The co-op was shut down early in the spring due to the pandemic but since mid-June, “we’ve had the best two months in our history,” he said.

In addition to helping the public get out on the open road, Bike Peoria works with other bicycle clubs in the area to promote bike safety and developing trails, said Baker.

“This year we merged with the Friends of the Rock Island Trail. With our combined membership, we can advocate more strongly for improvements on the trail,” he said.

Bike Peoria is also pushing to acquire a new recreational trail for the area. A 24-mile corridor owned by the Union Pacific Railroad that connects Limestone Township, Bellevue, Hanna City and Farmington needs to be acquired before April 2021, said Baker.

Acquisition efforts need to be in place before that deadline or the property will be broken up with portions of the land sold individually, he said.

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Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.